Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pastoring Multiple Parishes - Part 1

In this podcast, I begin a two-part conversation with Fr. Jonathan Meyer about the challenges and necessary adaptations that arise when one is the pastor of multiple parishes.  Fr. Meyer is the pastor of three rural parishes in Jennings County, IN

You can subscribe or listen or download this and all my podcasts at iTunes or any RSS reader of choice by using the feed url. All of the podcasts are available at the source site.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Sacrament of Reconciliation: A Liturgical, Sacramental Celebration of the Church

Last week, one of my “followers” on Twitter posed an interesting question. She is thinking of moving to a country where English is not the primary language and only speaks English at this time. The question arose: if she went to Confession to a priest who did not know or speak English, would the Sacrament be valid?
I was a bit hesitant to respond via Twitter as it only allows for 140 characters per message and it was clear to me that this question would require a more lengthy response. I also had to spend some time thinking about the proper response to her question because initially my answer was “yes, but …” as well as “yes, and …” Yes, it is valid but I need to say more than just that. I thought this blog would be a good forum in which to engage the question. Let me do so first by treating the Sacrament as a liturgical celebration of the Church and then examine some pertinent sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC].
All of the sacraments of the Church are celebrated as a liturgy of the Church. That means that it is an official, public and communal action of the Church celebrated by the Body of Christ, Head and members:
Rightly, then, the liturgy is considered as an exercise of the priestly office of Jesus Christ. In the liturgy the sanctification of the man is signified by signs perceptible to the senses, and is effected in a way which corresponds with each of these signs; in the liturgy the whole public worship is performed by the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, that is, by the Head and His members.
From this it follows that every liturgical celebration, because it is an action of Christ the priest and of His Body which .s the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others; no other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the same title and to the same degree. [Vatican II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 7.2]
The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people” (1 Peter 2:9; cf. 2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism.
In the restoration and promotion of the sacred liturgy, this full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else; for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit … [Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 14]
Because the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a liturgical celebration, we are encouraged in the ritual instruction to offer communal celebrations of this Sacrament at various times throughout the year using the form provided in the liturgical books, namely with music, a celebration of the Liturgy of the Word including a homily, and with individual confession, absolution, and penance. While the Church still maintains the familiar form of celebrating the sacrament between an individual penitent and confessor this is still a liturgy of the Church demanding that the celebration involve full, conscious and active participation of all involved. When priest and penitent do not speak or know the language of each other, a concern naturally rises about the quality of full, conscious and active participation. I do contend however, based on the essential elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, that the sacramental experience, even in this situation, is valid.  Consider the Church’s teaching on the essential elements of this Sacrament as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The Church teaches that the essential elements of the Sacrament of Reconciliation are [1] a validly ordained bishop or priest, [2] contrition or sorrow on the part of the penitent for sins they have committed together with the resolution to not sin again, [3] the actual confession of the sins by the penitent to the priest or bishop, [4] absolution by the confessor, and [5] some form of penance or satisfaction given by the confessor to the penitent which is then completed by the penitent.
So in terms of the original question, what do we have? The person is a contrite penitent who confesses to a validly ordained priest (whether the priest understands what it being said or not). She expresses contrition and intends to amend her life. The priest (or bishop) imparts absolution and she will do the penance that is given by the priest. Consequently, the Celebration is valid and the penitent can be at peace knowing she has been sacramentally reconciled to God and the Church.
But where does this leave us with the Church’s concern that sacramental celebrations involve full, conscious and active participation? While this situation validly addresses a short-term pastoral need, this way of celebrating Reconciliation cannot become normative. No doubt, the person will gradually learn the language of her new country, and the situation will be resolved. More importantly, though, all of us need to avoid anything that leads to approaching the sacraments as magic rites composed solely of words, gestures and materials devoid of any inner engagement, understanding and heart by the participants. A conscious attitude of minimalism, settling only for validity cannot be part of our lives.  In this situation, language is the obstacle, not a person’s disposition or attitude to avoid or to negate full, conscious, and active participation.
Case closed? Not so fast as the Church has consistently taught the importance of the penance that is part of the Sacrament. The penance the confessor imposes must take into account the penitent’s personal situation and must seek his or her spiritual good. It must correspond as far as possible with the gravity and nature of the sins committed [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1460]. If the priest does not understand what the penitent is saying, how can he know an appropriate penance to offer the penitent? I suppose he could give the old standby of ‘5 Hail Marys’ but what if we are talking about grave matter like adultery or murder? The concern here is that penance is medicine (unfortunately, many believe the penance given in the Sacrament is to ‘make up for what we did’ or worse still as a punishment for our sins. None of us can make up the damage our sins cause). It is medicine that intends, with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, to help us avoid sin and the near occasions of sin in the future. Like some illness and diseases we suffer, the medicine corresponds to the ailment. In this situation of a language barrier, it would be hard to convey the best possible penance. Acknowledging that celebrating this Sacrament is occasioned by a genuine pastoral need and not a normative way of approaching the Sacrament, I believe that whatever penance imposed in this situation would be sufficient while the person becomes more comfortable with a new language.
My best advice to the person who asked the question is to try and find a confessor out there who does speak English. There are a surprising number of English speakers throughout the world. As you begin to learn the language of your new country, hopefully, you will get to a place where you will be able to converse with the priest. For the time being though, if you have to rely on a non-English speaking confessor in a pinch, do so, know it is a “valid” confession – AND – keep looking for a better situation.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A lovely quote from G.K.Chesteron. RIP 75 years ago

"Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again" to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again" to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

Saturday, June 25, 2011

One year ago ...

St. Margaret Parish Altar Server Outing to Canobie Lake Park.  I'm the cute one in the back right.  How time flies ...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tweeting at the Jennings County Fair

I had my first experience of an Indiana county fair on Thursday night, June 24.  I tweeted and photographed the whole time I was there.  Here are the tweets as they happened.  Please note this is all intended in fun.  I loved the fair and I love being in Indiana.

6:31 PM Jennings County Fair here I come! Late getting here. Fr. Meyer of St Josephs is driving.
6:35 PM Shoot. No tractor pull. Track too muddy. Tractors getting stuck.
6:37 PM  Record attendance last night. Missed the baby contest. I guess every kid under one years old gets entered and judged as cute or not cute.
6:40 PM  There is also a little miss and mr Jennings County. The little girl who won is Catholic. Wants to meet the bishop.
6:42 PM Free admission. Woohoo!
6:44 PM "Good evening. How's the corn doing?"
6:47 PM  Checking out the 4H projects. There's one for Lego construction.  Cool.
6:51 PM  Where's the goats?
6:52 PM  I was just told that Ashley's calf has just won reserve grand champion.
Whatever that means.
6:59 PM  I still haven't eat'n anything fried yet.
7:05 PM  People are chasing goats in the ring. I'm not sure why.

7:06 PM  Oh. They're getting ready to show them. I've been told all the goats are Catholic. 
Whatever that means.

7:09 PM Goats

7:10 PM  Sorry. Catholic goats. 
Whatever that means.
7:14 PM Boy they certainly do have some interesting categories around here.

7:15 PM "Hey how's your corn doin'?"
7:16 PM  Pigs. Cool.
7:18 PM  Fr. Meyer has been asked to "show a pig". Whatever that means.
7:19 PM  Show a pig what?
7:20 PM  Ms. Jennings County Fair and moi. 

7:23 PM  Pigs. Fr. Meyer is disappointed that they're not fighting. Me too.

7:26 PM  Cows. I've been told they are Catholic. 
Whatever that means. 
I've been asked to bless them. 

7:31 PM  Me blessings the Catholic cows. 
Whatever that means. 
One of them left me an offering on my right shoe.

7:40 PM  Fr. Meyer is showing his pig. 
Whatever that ...
7:42 PM  Shoot! Lost the pic of Fr Meyer and the pig.
7:54 PM  I've been invited inside to fry things.  Cool.

7:56 PM "How's corn doin'?"
8:00 PM  Suppah!

8:18 PM  I call this "Jurassic Pork!"

8:27 PM  I'm going for the Twinkie. Can hardly wait.

8:28 PM  Waiting in line for the Twinkie. Surreal moment as I just found out there are people here following my tweets. One right next to me. 
8:29 PM "Hey. How's your corn?"
8:32 PM  Twinkie followed by a deep fried jalepeno. 

8:36 PM  Omg. I'm having a hahrt attack! "Elizabeth, it's the big one!"

8:46 PM  One of my followers.

8:48 PM  Looks like rain. "Run Toto run!"

8:50 PM  Running out juice. Will be signing off soon.
8:51 PM  Memo to self - No black shirts at county fair.
8:59 PM  Heading out. It was wicked awesome. Met a lot of great people.
9:03 PM  In the cahr going home. One of us has something on our shoes. I think it's Fr Meyer. He says it smells like "money". 
Whatever that means.


Sorry about the recent lack of activity on the blog. I've been a little busy trying to juggle everything with the recent trip out to Seattle for the USCCB spring meeting. Anyway, for those who are interested, I try and stay up to date with posts on my Facebook and Twitter accounts. They can be found at:



I try and post articles, prayers, and info every morning on twitter and Facebook.  I will be taping some podcasts this Tuesday and hope to get the first new one up the end of next week.  I will be posting something here on the blog within the next day or two concerning an interesting question about the Sacrament of Reconciliation someone posed to me on twitter a couple of days ago.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Back Home Again in Indiana ..."

Since I've been in Indiana now for over three months, I feel that I am now at a place where I can answer the question I hear most frequently, "So, what do you think of Indiana?" Of course, I know that the full question is really, "So what do you think of Indiana having come from the elitist liberal eastern coast of the U.S.?" but people in Indiana are too polite to pose the question that way. But I know. I know.

But as I said, having been here three months I now feel I have a good handle on all things Indiana and can now pontificate at great length, offering some learned observations. So here goes.

In Indiana, it's okay to take a right-hand turn from the third left-hand lane as long as you stop in the middle of the road and use your signal blinker at the last minute. This is especially true in downtown Indianapolis.

In Indiana, fried food is considered to be a major food group in the nutritional food pyramid.

In Indiana, there's a driving practice that I call the "green light saunter." That's what happens when the light turns green, the driver in front of you notices the light, and still pauses, often at great length of time, to get the car rolling. After a few minutes or so, they may decide to saunter along.

In Indiana, it's a good thing to serve at least three starches at meals. So next to the fried food goes corn, mashed potatoes, and noodles, etc. Lots of corn, mashed potatoes, and noodles ...

In Indiana, one does not "tweet" or "post" any joke about corn or corn farmers. Ever. Believe me, I know.

A codicil to the "saunter rule" noted above is the "no horn" rule. If you are in the car directly behind the sauntering driver, you should not toot your horn to get them moving since that just provokes the driver to look in the rearview mirror at you as if you are an idiot or a psychopath or an idiot psychopath. The end result is the driver in front moves even slower.

In Indiana, if it looks like some part of the car in front of you is about to fall off, it probably will. Either move into another lane, another street, or let someone else pass you and eat a bumper or muffler.

In Indiana, NRA does not stand for National Registry of Accountants.

In Indiana, there is a lot of flat land. You can watch your dog run away for two days.

In Indiana, "the Race" means two different things, depending upon whether you are near Indianapolis or just across the river from Louisville. Whatever Race it may be, both seem to involve more drinking than racing (except to the men's and ladies' room).

In Indiana, there is a process called RCIA which stands for Rite of Colts Initiation for Adults. People are very evangelical about this and cannot understand why anyone would not want to join their cult. Those who choose not to enter RCIA are treated with a polite nod of sadness usually reserved for idiot psychopaths.

These are just a few to get started. Please feel free to send me more as a comment as you wish.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"You are a Priest forever ..." Thoughts on an Ordination

On Saturday June 4, I was privileged to ordain Fr. Dustin Boehm to the priesthood at the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul here in Indianapolis. Archbishop Buechlein was in attendance and was able to preach the instruction prior to the rite of ordination. All of this is more than I ever expected when I was ordained to be an auxiliary bishop for the archdiocese. Over the past three months, I have ordained a man for the transitional diaconate and a man for the priesthood, both truly awesome moments for me and for the local Church. Just prior to Fr. Dustin's ordination someone asked me if I was going to "tweet" the whole experience like I did for the Indy 500. Not to worry about that as I left the cellphone in the sacristy. But I did think that it might be of interest to relate a few thoughts of the ordination as it was going on.

One of my many thoughts at the beginning of the ordination was to just move into the ritual and let it happen. I prayed, as I always do before any liturgy, that I not get in the way of the Church's prayer but that I be a means to it. I reminded myself that it was not about me, but about this young deacon who was about to be ordained and the community of the local church and the greater Church who were about to welcome him into its priesthood - time to turn off the ego. I was also thinking, "just let the MCs tell you what to do and you won't mess it up."

Coming down the main aisle of the cathedral, I could see Archbishop Buechlein seated in the cathedra. He and I had talked the week before about my doing the ordination. He wanted to ordain Dustin but he just didn't think he would have the stamina to do it well. Instead, he wanted to try and give the "instruction" (homily) within the ordination. But if during the ordination he wasn't able to do even that, he was going to let me know through the MCS and I would do the instruction instead. I was also very much aware that this was his first public appearance since his stroke. When we had talked, he asked that we not make a big deal out of it but I at least convinced him that we had to make some acknowledgement of his presence. He reluctantly agreed to this. So at the start of the Mass after the greeting I simply said something like, "My friends before we begin I need only say, Archbishop, It's good to have you back among us." There was a long and sustained applause for him. It was nice to see and hear.

One funny, embarrassing moment came early on when I went to thank Dustin's parents and family and was looking over to the left-hand side of the church thinking they were there (as they would have been in that other archdiocese from which I came). Thankfully, someone on that side of the cathedral was gracious enough to vigorously point me over towards the right-hand side and finally get it right.

Things moved along through the opening rite and the Liturgy of the Word. It was then that Archbishop Daniel preached.
He started out very strong and then settled into a good cadence and volume. I found myself thinking about not just what he was saying but also about how much he had wanted to ordain Dustin. I was sitting there with the mixed emotions of affection for the archbishop and a bit of sadness for him as well. As he finished and the ordination rite approached I almost felt like I should have gone over to him and placed my hands in his in recognition of what was going on but I didn't. I thought it might be too much, so I offered a simple bow to him as I moved towards the chair.

It is hard to describe what it felt like to sit in the chair and receive Dustin's promises of faithfulness and obedience. I know it was not supposed to be about me but I was reminded of when I made my own promises twenty-five years earlier. When he placed his hands in mine at the promise of obedience and looked at me, I couldn't help but think, "Boy, is he young! He is the
same age as I was when I was ordained" (of course, it's not about me...).

As Dustin prostrated himself on the floor, the Litany of the Saints soared around us.

I stood with the congregation and I closed my eyes. I prayed for Dustin, to "bless and consecrate him." I thought of how many times in the past the litany had been sung at this moment and how it felt almost timeless now. I thought about how much priests need the prayers and support of the communion of saints and the communion of the Church to help us be holy men. I thought of how I was just about to lay hands upon this good man and ordain him.
"Lord, ordain this man to your Church. Help him to persevere in his priesthood. Help him to be a kind and loving priest. Help him to lead a holy and good life. Help him to preach well. Help him to celebrate your sacraments well." So I prayed for the time that my hands were on Dustin's head. I don't know for how long I imposed hands. I simply kept them there until it felt right to take them away.

As others came forward to impose hands, I kept thinking about how many of them I knew by name already, how many of these priests were now my friends, how many of them were really good priests, working faithfully in their ministry to God's people. At the end, I extended hands as they stood with me before Dustin and prayed that he be granted the digninty of the priesthood, the dignity which we all of us priests and bishops would share with him.

And so, Dustin Boehm was ordained a priest.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Prayer to the Holy Spirit - Vigil of Pentecost

(from St. Augustine)

"Breathe into me, Holy Spirit, that my thoughts may all be holy. Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy. Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy. Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy. Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I may always be holy."

Monday, June 6, 2011

The New Roman Missal - Part 5

Fr. Pat Beidelman returns for a further conversation with me concerning the new Roman Missal. Our conversation is a follow-up to some of the things that we didn't cover in the first four podcasts as well as a response to some of the further issues and questions around the new missal.

I apologize for the low volume of the podcast as well as for Fr. Pat's mic having a bit of a "whisper" in it. I'm still learning how to use the equipment. I thought I had everything set correctly. Oops.

Speaking of technical stuff, notice the small audio player beneath the post entry. We're working to get this player on all of the previous posts as well but for the foreseeable future, the player will play only the most recent podcast. While there are fancy players out there, I want to be sure that the podcasts open on all platforms and mobile devices whether or not you can or can not use Adobe Flash. Remember you can also subscribe or listen or download these podcasts at iTunes or any RSS reader of choice by using the feed url. All of the podcasts are available at the source site.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Welcome Back, Archbishop Buechlein

Yesterday, Archbishop Daniel Buechlein made his first public appearance in over two months as he attended and preached at the ordination of the Reverend Dustin Boehm at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul here in Indianapolis.  He had suffered a stroke back in March and has been recovering and participating in physical therapy since then.  At the beginning of the ordination, Archbishop Daniel received a sustained round of welcome and applause from the congregation and he acknowledged their greeting in his normal, shy manner with a nod of the head and a wave.  He was able to preside in choir throughout the whole two hour liturgy, preach the instruction, and then attend the collation across the street at the Catholic Center.  On behalf of all, Archbishop, it is good to be with you again!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A prayer that was shared at a priest/deacons gathering

Maybe you've seen this.  I had but it had slipped my mind:

Lord, take me where you want me to go,
let me meet who you want me to meet,
tell me what you want me to say,
and keep me out of your way.

Fr. Mychal Judge, Franciscan priest, FDNY Chaplain, who died at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

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